I’ve always loved the phrase “Grandmother Research.” It’s a casual approach to gathering input about a topic of interest. The person conducting the survey asks everyone they know about the topic and then forms a point of view that reflects common wisdom. Not very scientific, but probably a good indicator of opinion trends among people you know and trust.

My personal Grandmother Research today is around the topic of social marketing and its adoption among major corporations. I’ve formed an opinion based upon experience in the marketplace and numerous conversations with other practitioners of the art. The common wisdom among this group is this: the sophistication of social marketing is rapidly evolving as the market becomes less experimental and more strategic and integrated in their approach.

Here are five emerging topics that we find interesting and encouraging:

  • Engagement. Marketers understand today that engagement is a faceted process that gets better and richer over time. The old one size fits all model is giving way to more personal interaction that is based upon profile information, actions, participation patterns and feedback.
  • Community Without Walls. Some organizations are firm believers in engaging in branded community sites while others stick solely to Facebook and other mass social media outlets. Some do both with very little integration between the two, although our research shows that this is starting to change. The best practice is to do both with tight integration between all social assets.
  • Reputation Management. The art of rewards and recognition is following the community without walls model. Companies are beginning to understand that they need to aggregate reputation of their members and fans across the cloud. Badges should be present across the full engagement lifecycle; not just on a single property. Likewise, rewards should be tied to activities and contributions throughout the cloud, not as separate programs for each point of engagement. This integrated approach is in the seedling stage, but adoption is growing.
  • Advocate Segmentation. All brand advocates are not created equal. Many organizations have forwarded a segmentation model for advocates; the most recognized is probably the one created by Forrester. A few years ago, we did a study for a client where we overlaid nearly 100 of these models and surfaced the four most common advocate types. The four (creators, critics, connectors and collectors) work well as a basic segmentation model for engagement. The trick is to understand your business objectives and aligned social engagement strategy, and then actively recruit the type of advocates who will most constantly help you achieve your goals. Your RepMan system and measurement approach should track levels of engagement by advocate type and provide insights for ongoing recruitment, engagement and campaign strategies.
  • Metrics ≠ ROI. Marketers have lots of metrics, but do not know how to efficiently mash-up suites of them so they tell a story. Social engagement has three distinct pillars: feedback, advocacy and support. Each has its own associated set of metrics that come from multiple sources. The industry is starting to “get this” and approach ROI in a way that matters. For example, knowing engagement levels is a metric, but is not necessarily an indication of ROI. When combined with five or six other metrics, however, a story begins to emerge that shows how engagement can lead to revenue growth or to adoption of a more efficient business process that leads to cost savings. Many organizations are still stuck at the metric level, but the conversation is definitely focusing on true ROI.

At ComBlu, we’re excited about this new level of discussion. In fact, much of it coincides with the current work that we’re doing. Part of my Grandmother Research indicates that our growth will come in these very areas. To handle this, we’re always looking for smart people and feel blessed to have just added one such professional, Dawn Lacallade, to the ComBlu team.

As an expert in community strategy, advocate activation, social engagement and social media, Dawn brings added firepower to ComBlu. Her forte is building healthy, thriving on-line communities and integrating social media into the marketing mix.

Before joining ComBlu, Dawn was head of Social Media and Community at Solar Winds, a Network Management Software Company. In that role, she was instrumental in embedding community experience throughout the product lifecycle from innovation to support. Prior to Solar Winds, Dawn held several community positions at Dell, including Manager-Dell Ideastorm and Manager–Dell Community Forums, where she led the evolution from the focus on support forums to a broader integrated community strategy.

As a recognized thought leader in the on-line community space, Dawn is a frequent speaker at industry conferences including Community 2.0 conferences (3 times), WOMMA Summit, Microsoft High Tech Summit, Google Product Management Leadership Summit, Social Media Breakfast, e-Business Conference and guest speaker on multiple webinars. Dawn is one of the founding members of the Community Roundtable and a member of the Social Media Breakfast and the Social Media Club.

Dawn is great; I even think my grandmother will like her!

Cheryl Treleaven

Cheryl Treleaven


Engaging your customers is at the heart of successful marketing programs. For more than 20 years, Cheryl has been building and executing content and thought leadership strategies designed to do just that. She is excited to be applying that well-honed skill to a help companies like Microsoft, Cisco, 3M, Intel, Capital One and Barclaycard tap into their stakeholder communities and build sophisticated content strategies.

Her experience base spans a range of industries – from technology and financial services to retail, travel, consumer products and healthcare. Cheryl has served as an integral member of her clients’ marketing teams, providing counsel on marketing and brand strategy, thought leadership, media relations, product introductions, and event management.

Prior to joining ComBlu, Cheryl spent 10 years leading corporate marketing for large, complex organizations.